Two hundred and fifty-three (253) individuals and companies, including a number of foreigners, have indicated their expressions of interest in either a design, build, or finance in a public/private partnership with the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).
They are interested in a piece of the $8 billion pie which the HDC has thrown out to design, build and finance the construction of houses over the next three years in Trinidad and Tobago.
So far, just one company, NH International, has emerged as a contractor for the design, build, and finance of a $145 million contract for houses in Mount Hope.
UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen, speaking at a news conference at the Hyatt Hotel on Tuesday, alleged bid-rigging in the tender process at the HDC over this design, build, finance arrangements.
He produced documents and a trail of emails to accuse the HDC and a senior official of collusion in the tendering process.
A perusal of the evaluation documents shows that nearly every possible construction company operating in Trinidad and Tobago expressed interest. In one case, a media company with connections to the Government, applied, so to companies whose track record is in road paving. This company has no record of constructing houses, far more infrastructure works.
Some individuals and companies have expressed interest as they have land to sell and was willing to negotiate with the HDC. Even the estate of a dead man has approached the HDC to sell off his land.
Only one financial institution has offered to be involved by way of financing the projects. At least five Chinese companies have expressed willingness, saying they have the designs and finances and history has shown they can carry out such projects.
In his news conference, Ramdeen is calling on Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, to scrap this $8 billion venture.
Ramdeen said according to the e-mails, one senior official of the HDC, who is also a member of the evaluation committee, completed a tender document for one Port of Spain media company, e-mailed it to the firm and instructed officials there to “fill in the blanks”.
That company later received the highest rating from the evaluation team at the HDC but was not awarded any contract under the Public/Private Partnership (PPP) initiative.
“Let them scrap the PPP and audit that instead. It is the funds of the people of Trinidad and Tobago that is funding this project and we have to have an answer to this,” Ramdeen said.
He called on Minister of Housing, Randall Mitchell, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Stuart Young, and the HDC to explain this alleged interference.
Ramdeen said Al-Rawi was very quick to talk about audits but was silent now.
“This is not $300,000 you know, this is $8 billion,” he added.
On Wednesday, the bundle of documents would be delivered to the acting Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Integrity Commission.
Ramdeen alleged the HDC official was also in contravention of the HDC’s tender rules (2010), which stated that “to preserve the integrity and credibility of the tendering process all parties, ministry officials, board members and employees of the corporation shall be fair, impartial and free of any relationships that may cause them to favour a particular contractor or vendor”.
The HDC issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) in January and which closed on February 15.
The HDC official has been working there for years, even when it was the National Housing Authority (NHA). She has been brought back to the HDC after she retired and is being paid a salary of $51,000, Ramdeen claimed.
According to the Senator, she has also been afforded a driver and a vehicle. That woman, according to Ramdeen, receives the highest salary after the Managing Director.
That official moves in high circles and is very close to people in this Government. As a result, she was appointed to a State Board in 2015.
MINISTER TO LOOK INTO ALLEGATIONS
When contacted by the media on Tuesday, Mitchell said he was planning to look into Ramdeen’s allegations against an HDC staff member, saying that while the employee was a member of the evaluation committee, the person never sat on the tenders committee.
Mitchell also questioned the $8 billion figure Ramdeen used to quantify the PPP initiative.
“I wish it was $8 billion,” he said.
Mitchell said the idea behind the PPP was for private contractors, financiers, landowners and designer build teams to liaise with Government to produce houses.